The first church on this site of Bern Minster probably was a small chapel built during the founding of Bern (1191). By the 15th century, Bern had expanded and become a major city-state north of the Alps. To celebrate their growing power and wealth, the construction of new church began in 1421.
During the first phase, Matthäus Ensinger, a foreman from Ulm, was in charge of the project. The construction took over 150 years, and generations of foremen, sculptors and stonemasons worked on the important monument. It was hard work and there were strict rules: the main goal of late Gothic architecture was to have a building of predetermined dimension and with as much light as possible. The craftsmen achieved an impressive space by connecting the entire inside space, using a special building technique and carefully proportioning the windows.
In the 16th century, the third stage of the build came to an end. The spire was only 50 metres high, so the Minster looked quite different among the houses of the Old City. Construction had to stop because the ground was not stable and there were some financial problems. Later on, the impressive spire was built in the Gothic style and reached its final height. Switzerland’s largest late medieval church was completed in 1893. It was made almost completely out of Bernese sandstone, with the exception of the top part of the spire.
The most famous feature of the Bernese Minster is the exceptional main portal. Erhart Küng, a sculptor and foreman from Westphalia, made the sandstone masterpiece that depicts the Last Judgement. There are 294 sculptures: prophets, angels with trumpets, Jesus Christ as Judge of the Nations, Lady Justice (added after the Reformation), martyrs and damned souls showed the believers what the day of the Last Judgement would look like.
You can visit the Minster to enjoy the unique ambiance inside the building, listen to the sound of the organs, attend a protestant service, look at the medieval architecture or enjoy the view from the platform at the top of the spire – the church and the spire of the Minster are open daily, year-round. Make sure you check the official opening hours.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.